Last week, Pope Benedict XVI told the annual gathering of his “Study Group” (some of his former students) to ask God’s forgiveness on behalf of generations of “cradle Catholics” who have failed to transmit the faith to others.
No doubt, evangelizing others is an important dimension of Catholic life, as Pope Paul VI reminded the Church in his 1975 apostolic exhortation, Evangelii nuntiandi:
…what matters is to evangelize man’s culture and cultures (not in a purely decorative way, as it were, by applying a thin veneer, but in a vital way, in depth and right to their very roots), in the wide and rich sense which these terms have in Gaudium et spes, always taking the person as one’s starting-point and always coming back to the relationships of people among themselves and with God. (#20)
Where evangelization first takes place is in the home as parents evangelize their children in the Roman Catholic faith and its practice. Today, the most-often heard lament is that Roman Catholic parents, in general, are not evangelizing their children and, of those who do, they are not evangelizing their children in the Roman Catholic faith and its practice but in some generic form of Christianity that emphasizes democratic values and aspirations.
Oftentimes overlooked in all of this are those Roman Catholic parents who are working extremely hard to evangelize their children in the faith and its practice, yet whose efforts are being mitigated by the prevailing Zeitgeist:
- Parents who pay a “double tax” to send their children to Catholic schools (including colleges and universities) which inculcate American catholicism in students.
- Parents whose children reject the faith as archaic if not inane after being exposed to hours upon hours of programming on television that mocks religion, in general, and the Catholic religion, in particular.
- Parents whose adult children do not evangelize their grandchildren, arguing that it’s best for them to make a decision about faith when they are adults.
These are just a few of many examples of parents who watch on only to see their heroic efforts to evangelize their children come to nothing. The pain these parents experience is not just moral and spiritual—in the sense that many of them feel that they have “failed” in their important mission as the first and best catechists of their children—but the pain is also physical—in the sense that, valuing the Roman Catholic faith and its practice, their hearts are broken because their children do not possess the same value.
The Pope is absolutely correct in reminding not just his Study Group but all Catholics of the importance of asking God’s forgiveness for the failure to evangelize others. But, something additional is called for, an act of magnanimity, for all Catholics to uplift in prayer those many parents today who mourn for their children who have rejected the Catholic faith and who suffer persecution for justice’s sake. Through these prayers, this is how they will be comforted (Matthew 5:5) and inherit the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10).
To read the CNS report of Pope Benedict XVI’s discussion with his Study Group, click on the following link:
To read Pope Paul VI’s apostolic exhortation, Evangelii nuntiandi, click on the following link: